waitingWe’ve all been in a situation, most of us a number of times, where we’re waiting for God to answer a particular prayer or deliver us from a difficult situation. Perhaps you find yourself in such a place right now.
         I have to admit that I have a really hard time waiting – even if it’s waiting on the Lord. I’m very much an action taker by nature and I like to get answers as quickly as possible, including answers to my prayers. I’ve found, however, that God often doesn’t give me a definite answer right away and that He tends to operate on a timetable that’s very different from mine. He is most certainly not in a hurry like I am.
         As I have matured in my faith, I have come to understand that what I perceive as the most pressing needs in my life are not always the most important needs in God’s eyes – this, because He sees the bigger picture that I myself don’t see. What may look like an urgent need to me may, in fact, only be a secondary issue to the Lord of heaven and earth who is able to make out the beginning, middle, and end of everything that is happening and is going to happen in my life.
         You or I may pray for our sick child to get well, or for the restoration of a broken marriage, or for help to get out of debt, or a number of other good things… God, on the other hand, although He very much cares about all these needs, may be even more concerned about using our circumstances to teach us patience, contentment, trust, love, and wisdom.
         If our desires are godly and otherwise in accordance with His will, we can be certain that God will meet them at the right time and in the right way, because “no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). However, God will sometimes choose to keep us in “the waiting room” for a season because He wants to accomplish something even bigger in our lives than what we are asking Him for: He wants to use our painful, frustrating, or confusing circumstances to teach us valuable lessons about ourselves and His character.
         What, then, should our attitude be while we wait on God? How should we approach Him while waiting for relief – or should we approach Him at all? And what can we expect from Him?
         For answers to these questions, let’s look to the fascinating account of Acts, chapter 16. Here we read that Paul and Silas were put in jail on false accusations after casting a spirit of divination out of a slave-girl – and they weren’t merely placed in a temporary holding cell; they were thrown into the inner prison where their feet were secured in stocks (v. 24)! That it would take big-time divine intervention to get them out of there is pretty clear!
         And divine intervention is exactly what happened next: “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose” (vv. 25-26).
         These two short verses are jam-packed with valuable insights that you and I can apply to our own lives. Firstly, notice Paul’s and Silas’ attitude. They weren’t murmuring, complaining, crying bitter tears, or arguing with God. Certainly, if the two men had had a poor attitude, they could easily have justified it to themselves and each other. I mean, here they are out and about proclaiming the Gospel, doing God’s will, and delivering a poor slave-girl from a demon, and next thing they know they get dragged in front of the authorities and thrown in jail! What had they done to deserve such treatment? Where was God? Had He suddenly left them?
         How many of us, if in a similar situation, wouldn’t have either shaken our fist at God or hung our head in despair? But Paul and Silas did neither. Instead, while waiting for God’s deliverance, they prayed and worshiped! And, as they demonstrated trust in God this way, they were no doubt a powerful testimony to the other prisoners who were listening in on their prayers and praises (see v. 25).
         Then, while Paul and Silas were praising the Lord, “about midnight”, God came to their rescue. This is the second thing we should notice – that the deliverance came “about midnight”. In our modern day vernacular we frequently use the phrase “at the midnight hour”, meaning that something happens in the nick of time. Interestingly, as we search the Scriptures, we find that God often chooses to wait until the last minute to provide a solution to our problems. In fact, flip back just a few pages, to Acts 12:5-7, and you’ll read about how Peter, too, was in prison, and that while he was incarcerated and the church was praying for his release, an angel miraculously delivered him. His rescue, we’re told, took place on the very night Herod was about to bring him forward!
         Many of us have also experienced in our own lives that God will frequently wait until our circumstances look impossible before He’ll come to our rescue. Why is this? Well, it’s one of the ways that God builds trust and patience in us and really stretches our faith muscle. The longer the wait, the more of an opportunity we have to seek Him, pray to Him, learn about Him, and worship Him. If God always came through for us as soon as we presented Him with a petition, that wouldn’t give us much of a chance to grow spiritually, would it?
         The third thing we should notice is that God’s deliverance of Paul and Silas happened in a way that was absolutely extraordinary. Going back to Acts 16:26, we read that, “Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.” It was a full-fledged miracle: what happened was so supernatural that it couldn’t be explained in any other way than that it was the hand of God at work.
         The Lord, it seems, often chooses to put His glory on display this way. Certainly, He works through natural means as well; by sovereignty orchestrating all the “ordinary” little events in our lives in such a manner that our prayers are answered and His will comes to pass…  But He can just as well do something unexpected and remarkable as something that can be easily explained. He did after all create the universe out of nothing and raise Jesus Christ from the dead – is anything too difficult for our heavenly Father?
         So, to sum it all up, when life appears to be on hold and we’re waiting on God to give us answers, let’s remember the inspiring example of Paul and Silas. Like these two devout followers of Christ, let’s refrain from complaining or growing impatient, and instead try to look at our circumstances through the eyes of the One who sees the bigger picture. Let’s continue to sing His praises while we wait, because even in seasons of waiting God is working in our hearts – perhaps especially then. And what He wants to teach us during those seasons are important life lessons that are going to benefit us long-term.
         When, like Paul and Silas, there’s nothing we can do to change our predicament and all we can do is wait for God to act on our behalf, we need to make sure we have the right attitude while waiting. This is our responsibility! God, when He comes to our rescue, wants to find us waiting with an attitude of joy, trust, and faith.
         Also, let’s not forget that even if our situation looks “impossible”, with God, all things are always possible. We always have reason to be hopeful, and so we should continue to pray with expectancy, not allowing a delayed answer to dismay us. God can, at any time – even at the midnight hour – send a proverbial earthquake to shake the ground and make closed doors fly open. Therefore, we must not lose heart but should continue to press in in prayer for as long as it takes, until we get a definite yes or no.
         And friends – as with Paul and Silas – while we wait for deliverance, may our testimony before the watching world be pleasing to our Lord… May the world look at us and marvel at our inexplicable joy in the midst of our trials… May we keep our faces lifted toward heaven in praise and worship, knowing that God is always “working all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28)!
         Remember, God is good; God is wise; God is powerful…and God is for us!